Chance a rising senior with a reachy list for polysci + suggest safeties and matches?

this is the millionth time I’ve done this kind of thing but my college list has almost been finalized and I would like some insight on it. any help is appreciated.


  • US citizen
  • CA (LA area)
  • Type of high school: large (2.5k) public mediocre HS
  • Gender/Race/Ethnicity: female Asian (Chinese)
  • Other special factors: parents are immigrants, considered first-gen for some schools (Columbia and Brown I think?)

Intended Major(s) political science / international relations. looking to go into journalism, but not to major in it.

GPA, Rank, and Test Scores

  • Unweighted HS GPA: 3.97
  • Weighted HS GPA (incl. weighting system): 9-12 - 4.17 // 10-12 (for Stanford ??) 4.42 (AP/honors 1 pt boost)
    the thing about my GPA is that I took honors courses during my freshman and sophomore year but they were not given extra weight. only courses deemed AP/Honors courses by the UC system were given weight.
  • UC GPA: UW - 4.0, W - 4.33, Weighted + capped - 4.33
  • Class Rank: school doesn’t rank but within top 15% according to UC ELC
  • ACT/SAT Scores: SAT - 1470 (EBRW 750 M 720), retaking in August aiming for 1500+

(AP/IB/Dual Enrollment classes, AP/IB scores for high school; also include level of math and foreign language reached and any unusual academic electives; for transfers, describe your college courses and preparation for your intended major(s))

  • freshman: honors english, accelerated math
  • sophomore: honors English, honors chem, accelerated math
  • junior : AP Chinese, AP Lang, APUSH, accelerated math
  • senior (intended): AP Lit, AP Gov, AP Stats
  • by the time I graduate I will have 80 language credits (completed all Chinese and Spanish courses)


  • QuestBridge College Prep Scholar
  • received highest award for juniors at my school (~30 ish people received out of class of ~500)
  • Regional Gold Key, Scholastic Art & Essay (critical essay, 2020)
  • Regional Honorable Mention, Scholastic (critical essay, 2021)

(Include leadership, summer activities, competitions, volunteering, and work experience)

  • Speech & Debate (9, 11 - general member / 12 - publicity chair, guaranteed one more board position + probably will get event co-captain) our team is within top 50 in the nation.
  • Red Cross (11 - general member / 12 - art chair)
  • AP Ambassadors (11-12 - Publicity Co-chair)
  • Newspaper (12 - guaranteed News Editor)
  • FARMS - student run org to feed local families (11-12 - English Outreach Coordinator)
  • Key Club (11-12 - general member)
  • student election worker volunteer - Nov 2020
  • representing my school in CA Girls State (next week!)
  • Link Crew (12 - member)
  • waitlisted for Pioneer - applying to Alpha Scholars research program + Horizon research program

(Optionally, guess how strong these are and include any other relevant information or circumstances.)

I’m a pretty strong writer with some great mentors behind me. I’d say 8-9/10 for my essays and 7-9/10 for my LORs.

Cost Constraints / Budget
(High school students: please get a budget from your parents and use the Net Price Calculators on the web sites of colleges of interest.)

I am low-income enough for QB. I don’t have all my numbers yet but it looks like I will be 0 EFC or close to it.

(List of colleges by your initial chance estimate; designate if applying ED/EA/RD; if a scholarship is necessary for affordability, indicate that you are aiming for a scholarship and use the scholarship chance to estimate it into the appropriate group below)

because I am also applying through QB, I will denote the schools I am potentially applying through QB Match with (^) and QB RD with (°). In the chance I don’t get QB Finalist, I will probably apply to Stanford REA and Swarthmore or maybe University of Chicago EDII if it doesn’t work out + University of Arizona EA.

  • Safety (certain admission and affordability)
  • Sac State
  • ASU / University of Arizona (one of these two: need merit for it to be affordable)
  • will look into more CSUs
  • Likely (would be possible, but very unlikely or surprising, for it not to admit or be affordable)
  • UC Riverside
  • Match
  • UC Davis
  • UCSD (?)
  • Reed / Syracuse / GWU (considering)
  • Reach
  • UCLA
  • UCB
  • UCI
  • Stanford (likely REA if through Common App) ^
  • Columbia ^
  • Swarthmore (likely ED II) ^
  • UPenn ^
  • UChicago ^
  • Northwestern (may double major in poli sci + journalism) °
  • Yale °
  • Harvard
  • not definite but considering (through QB RD if available): BU, Rice, Princeton, Tufts, Pomona/CMC, Brown

wow, that’s a lot of schools. I welcome any suggestions for safeties and matches/likelies, also please tell me if any schools on my list do not match my preferences:

  • most important factors: financial aid + diversity + proximity to a city
  • proximity to a city primarily because of political / journalistic opportunities ^^
  • definite “No” in a college is if it has a reputation of heavy party culture, heavy Greek life presence, religious affiliation.
  • would like FGLI + LGBTQ + POC support (I am not first gen though, I just use the acronym), good study abroad programs, have things to do around / outside campus
  • I want to get out of SoCal mostly, East Coast / NorCal preferably. not sure about pacific northwest but I’m not opposed to it.
  • I generally am opposed to smaller (population) schools since my HS is about the size of some LACs (Swarthmore is the obvious exception here). that is why I prefer universities > LACs but I am open to any suggestions of smaller schools bc a liberal arts curriculum appeals to me.
  • I am open to schools with core or no core. i am passable at courses like chem and bio (not sure about physics and CS since I avoid them like the plague) but don’t like them. recently been considering open curriculum schools more heavily but still prefer schools with some requirements.
  • there are schools I realize may be suggested to me so I feel the need to point them out beforehand because I do not like them. they are CSULA, USC, Georgetown, and Dartmouth. in the case of usc, it’s fine - I wouldn’t apply personally because it’s not for me.

so sorry for the long read :disappointed_relieved: any and all suggestions are appreciated, thank you so much for reading until the end lol


you should add LACs to your QB list in order to have a better shot.

Low reach or low match is you show interest starting now would be Dickinson (in a small town not a city though)

Haverford, Macalester should be on your list :slight_smile:

Kalamazoo is in a city (though may not be what you mean by city???) And meets need.


most LACs are not in great locations for me but I like the ones that are in the consortium with swarthmore. haverford is on my radar and i’m planning to apply to the fly-in. i’m a bit unsure about macalester but I’ve heard good things about it. I’m kind of familiar with Dickinson ?? because I know someone that goes there through Posse so I’ll be sure to ask them some questions about it. i also know someone who went to kalamazoo so I’ll ask them about it too. thank you for the suggestions !!

Swap in Arizona for ASU - better merit - and add Alabama.

If you are doing QB, that will be your application - but AZ publishes the merit table and it’s more aggressive than ASU.

Good luck.

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Wesleyan is a very hot LAC right now and it sits right in the middle of Tufts and Swarthmore in terms of size (3000.) Superlative political and journalistic connections (Sebastian Junger, John Yang of PBS NewsHour, Robert Allbritton, who publishes Politico Magazine, among others.) Has more of a traditional downtown location than either.


I’ve heard Alabama gives good merit but I’m not sure about the state / location. if U of A gives better merit to than ASU I’ll consider it. thank you!

ooh that sounds good. I’ve heard a lot about Wesleyan and it’s been recommended to me a lot. I have a kind of dumb reason for not looking at it closer… because its page in the questbridge partner viewbook is just an html page and clearly not well thought out so it didn’t give me the right vibe :sob: but since I’ve heard so much about it I’ll look into it more. thank you !

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hopefully a title change is more accurate :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

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bump … ? im on the home stretch and about to start my application process next month so I need all the suggestions I can get.

For merit u of a is better. For journalism (which you won’t major in) ASU is tops.

You can see U of Arizona’s merit table. ASU has a calculator you can use.

the only school im considering double majoring in journalism is northwestern LOL. i used the ASU calculator and although my assets were probably incorrect, it came out to 8k or 10k if i remember correctly… the number made me shiver so U of Arizona might be the better option here.

I gave u the link You would be 30k merit so about 8k tuition plus room and board.

just checked the link right now… i vaguely remember seeing this?? but i think i confused it with ASU at the time. welp now U of Arizona > ASU for me

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Dickinson is in a very small town but it’d be a great academic fit.
Kalamazoo is in a diverse city.
You need to show a lot of interest (ie., fill out the “request info form” and click on a link in every email they send, scroll down a page or two on their website…)

you see the small town thing… i like urban areas n not very small towns so i might consider it but not too seriously

if Kalamazoo is more your speed than Carlisle, no problem.
Do keep in mind that a college town can be nicer than a city (as the city can be deindustrialized or not that much fun… think Youngstown v.Ann Arbor…)
To be clear, Carlisle isn’t a “college town”.

yeah i understand, i was just thinking that since im a poli sci major that wants to be a journalist it might be better in a city ?? correct me if im wrong of course

unless the city is the state capital, not necessarily, and even sometimes the opposite. For instance, Willamette is in the capital, but it’s not a big city. Access to the capitol is facilitated by proximity. However being one of many university students in a big city means your university’s pull matters more and ease of access cannot be taken for granted.
However, yes, not being in a rural area (such as Hamilton or Grinnell) would matter.

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Hamilton represents one of the best choices for the study of government and public policy, at least partly because of its long-established Washington, D.C. semester:

In any case, @harrypottereatspie, you may want to consider these schools as part of your general search:

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